#40 - "Sprawling, over-the-top brio" - Angels in America

National Theatre, Lyttelton

Twenty-five years on from its NT premiere Tony Kushner’s eight-hour spectacle has lost none of its power, pertinence or sprawling, over-the-top brio. In an 80s New York afflicted with Aids and Reaganism, seven humans and one angel crash messily through each other’s waking and dreaming lives, sparking fevered questions of politics, religion and sexuality. That a key figure – the closeted, infected McCarthyite Roy Cohn – was also Trump’s mentor seems almost too perfect. A fine cast revels in the talkative, emotive excesses and Marianne Elliot gives the play’s bold swagger free rein. The design, especially the articulation of the angel is, as Andrew Garfield’s anguished hero Prior would put it, faaabulous.


#39 - "Great nosh" - Monty's Deli

227-229 Hoxton Street

Fat, flaky pastrami on pillowy rye; smoked turkey smothered in tangy beetroot mustard mayo and slaw; crisp pickles; luxuriant chopped liver with blackened sweet challah bread. This is great nosh. Jewish deli Monty’s, a former market pop up, has found an airy home in the distressed carcass of a Victorian butcher’s shop (it’s non-kosher, btw). Think Delancey St enlivened by smiley millennial Hoxton cool – a bagel bar and tables on one side, low-rise booths on another. There’s decent house beer and wine but it’s really all about the calorific dishes. All those mentioned above were excellent, as were vinegary potato salad with sweet onion and velvety chopped egg with blackened challah. Latkas alone were a bit meh.  

#38 - "Brutally funny, focused and provoking" - Consent

National Theatre, Dorfman

Wow, this is brutally funny, incredibly dense stuff. In Nina Raine’s play, two barristers working on a rape case find issues of consent and violation spin into their lives outside the courtroom. Infidelity, the politics of marital sex, abortion, baby hunger and the harsh offhandness of lawyers are debated in alternately witty and vehement adversarial exchanges: indeed, the play is so layered it’s impossible to cut through to any conclusion. Perhaps that’s the point. Roger Michell’s production is tightly focused and provoking, and frames fine performances especially, from a brittle Anna Maxwell Martin and from Adam James as a serial-shagging lawyer, “the yardstick of shit”.  

#37 - "Episodic, ritualistic, slow" - Salome

National Theatre, Olivier

Yael Farber’s episodic, ritualistic retelling of the Salome story is visually and atmospherically rich, teeming with lively past and present parallels and a generous dollop of eroticism, but man, is it slow. Worse, rather than strip its heroine of bibilical and mythical obfuscation, it swathes her in more confusion. Rome’s occupation of Judea stands for the repression, abuse and exclusion of women throughout history, and Isabella Nefar’s Salome initially suffers silently the attentions of Paul Chahidi’s slimy Herod, her story voiced by Olwen Foure’s nameless narrator. Later, speaking, disrobing, gauzily gyrating and then demanding the prophet Jokanaan’s head, her motivations remain opaque. And an hour in, the keening, ululating vocal music seriously starts to grate.

#36 - "Superb and timely" - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Donmar Warehouse

Third time I’ve seen Brecht’s satire on Hitler: first time it’s actually worked. Simon Evans’s exuberantly raucous production of Bruce Norris’s new adaptation uses verse, song, even audience participation to make explicit connections between Lenny Henry’s brutish gangster and Donald Trump. While the parallels are inexact it’s still very powerful. This breaks Brecht free of historical amber and British reserve, and shows he invented ‘fake news’. Henry, never better, transforms from looming galoot to mannered operator, crushing foes and friends alike. A fine supporting cast of actor/singers ensure the clownish comedy has a chilling edge. Of course, the Donmar is a liberal echo chamber, but this is superb and timely programming.

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